Family of man killed by a deputy in Elsanor give more to the story

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 9:26 PM CST
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ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WALA) - There are more details into the background of the man killed in the deputy-involved shooting Thursday in Elsanor.

Baldwin County Major Crimes said the man charged at a deputy with a knife, resulting in the deputy using deadly force.

Now, we hear from the family, who say mental illness played a key role.

Family said Jim Pavlista, 58, is from Summerdale and spent his whole life in Baldwin County. His niece described him as a gentle giant—a loving uncle, father, and grandfather.

“I have really warm memories of my uncle, especially at holiday dinners,” said Alex Sconfienza. “He and I both really enjoyed the Sister Schubert’s dinner rolls, so that was always our little thing.”

Investigators said Thursday they responded to a home on Highway 90 in Robertsdale after a neighbor said Pavlista was damaging his property. Deputies said Pavlista was uncooperative and went inside his house. Eventually, he came back outside, and that’s when investigators said he charged at a deputy with a knife.

Authorities said after many warnings, that deputy used deadly force and shot him. Pavlista was pronounced dead on scene.

His niece said as a teenager, Pavlista was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

She said that’s a critical point in understanding how everything unfolded.

“What ended up happening was there’s an officer who’s left behind that day to keep an eye out on my uncle,” she said. “He’s in plain clothes. So, if you’re thinking about this from my uncle’s perspective, he’s experiencing a mental illness. He’s not on his medication at the time, and you have someone in civilian clothes, who’s authority is not apparent to you, and he’s yelling at you to stop and giving you other commands. That must be incredibly confusing.”

Back in January, BCSO partnered with Altapointe—a mental healthcare service—to gain skills on de-escalating situations with the mentally-ill.

Baldwin County Major Crimes Unit said they were familiar with Pavlista and were called to his home many times before.

Alex agreed.

“They knew he had mental illnesses,” she said. “The sheriff’s office was well-aware of his condition, so when that critical piece of information was omitted, it really changed the narrative.”

The family said they wish a mental health expert was on-scene, and they are grieving the loss of one of their own.

“Any person who is killed or is shown on the news, each person has a family, and that family grieves the loss of their lives, and they are really left heartbroken,” she said.

FOX10 News asked Altapointe if they were called to the scene. Here’s a statement:

“We did do crisis intervention team (CIT) training with some Baldwin County deputies in January and will continue to work with them on training dealing with mentally ill individuals. We are not typically called out when weapons are involved since law enforcement must follow their basic protocol in those situations. We support the sheriff’s office and the partnership we have with them.”

FOX10 News reached out to BCSO about how many times they responded to Pavlista’s home in the months leading up to this. We are waiting for that information.

To donate to the family’s GoFundMe for funeral expenses, click here.